Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy will take a trip to a San Francisco nail salon Wednesday—a visit intended to shine a spotlight on health risks posed by the industry.
McCarthy's West Coast trip arrives on the heels of a New York Times expose published last week that documented poor working conditions in New York City-area nail salons, detailing how workers are routinely underpaid and overworked. The article sparked public outcry and prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to call for an investigation into worker treatment at nail salons.
"We know more visibility needs to be raised for these issues and we're working hard to reach communities and to educate folks," McCarthy said Tuesday at the White House Summit on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Washington, where she announced her nail salon visit.
During her trip, McCarthy will meet with a local nail salon owner along with members of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, which is a coalition of salon workers, environmental groups, nonprofits, and government agencies.
Nail polish and other products found in salons contain an array of chemicals that may pose a threat to public health and the environment. Without proper handling, exposure to chemicals such as formaldehyde can lead to difficulty breathing, skin irritation and other health problems.
EPA already has put together a federal working group and doled out grants to organizations tackling the industry's public health and environmental impact created by the use of chemicals in nail salons, McCarthy noted.
"We've put together funding strategies, grants, that local communities and individual companies can access and we've put together a technical assistance team and all of this is done in a way that is multilingual so that we can reach the target audience, but there is so much more work to be done," McCarthy said.
McCarthy signaled optimism that headlines generated by The New York Times would raise awareness, but added that more needs to be done to shine a spotlight on the issue. "Not everybody—unbeknownst to The New York Times—reads The New York Times," she said.